Written by Heather Waldron
Prior to the talk to be given by Dr Richard Carlton on 4th April at Crookham, TillVAS held their AGM. The meeting was well attended and membership numbers last year were a healthy 125. Those present were reminded that committee members are always needed to help run TillVAS and to consider coming forward. George Farr was proposed and accepted as an honorary member.
Dr Richard Carlton’s excellent talk was about the 2017 dig at Mardon. After describing the process of choosing a suitable dig site for the Village Atlas project, Richard went on to explain the reasons for deciding on the Iron age hill top feature at Mardon. There was clear evidence of a rectangular enclosure from aerial photographs and the area had never been excavated before. He outlined what was already known about similar sites across the country including what artefacts, if any, might be found.
David Astbury had laid a grid to help identify where the digger should begin clearing the top soil. These large cleared areas were then ‘cleaned’ using mattocks and trowels to enable archaeologists to choose where to place the trenches. TillVAS were pleased to welcome the valuable help given by a band of volunteer diggers, some of whom had travelled many miles to support the dig. At this stage it was easy to identify the location of the enclosure ditch terminals, a circular feature within, an area of dark material and cobbling, plus other areas of interest.
The ditch terminals at the enclosure entrance were each split into two for some metres, which was very unusual. All the ditches were deep, particularly that on the north side, and very productive in terms of datable material including cattle bones and turf or bedding. The deposits at the bottom were almost certainly laid down when the ditch was in use. All of this evidence is being analysed and the results are due soon. The ditch sides showed signs of being re-cut several times and would have been a serious undertaking for the builders of the day.
Two smaller trenches were also opened at the North and North West side of the enclosure (across that part of the ditch furthest from the entrance) and although the perimeter ditch was found, it contained no datable evidence. Again the trench sides were steep and showed evidence of being cleared or re-cut etc during their useful lifetime.
The circular feature was actually only a semi circle. The shallow ditch where small groups of stones were found could have contained posts to hold a structure or a fence for shelter or protection. The area of dark material and areas of cobbling were perhaps where animals had been kept, leaving rich dark soil as evidence. There was also a small flattish area of ‘hard standing’ which would have created a drier area for working ie shearing, or a stack stand. A plough share was found embedded in these stones and must have caused some anger when it broke perhaps a hundred years ago or more. Some small shallow post holes were also excavated.
The finds were richer than expected and included a small cup marked stone, iron-age pottery, shaping stones, ochre, and a beetle found at the bottom of the deep trench. Given the success of the 2017 dig and the support received by land owner George Farr, Dr Carlton felt it would be worth revisiting the site in 2018.